Little Survivor Gives Thanks
Last December, Isabelle Ratcliff was just returning home for the holidays. The eight-year-old, Mustang girl had spent months in the hospital battling leukemia. But as her strength began to return earlier this year, she and her mother took a very important outing. The two visited an Oklahoma City donor center to give thanks to donors giving blood. Isabelle wore her special shirt proclaiming, “I’m ALIVE Thanks To A Blood Donor.”
“Seeing the donors brought back memories for Isabelle,” said Rebekah Ratcliff, mom.
In the summer of 2011, Isabelle ran a high fever that wouldn’t break. She was sent to the Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center. Before she could undergo tests, she had to be given two units of blood and a unit of platelets. Tests revealed Isabelle had leukemia.
While spending five months in the hospital, Isabelle received numerous blood transfusions, and today she is cancer free. She and her family realize the value of blood donation, and hope that by showing their appreciation in person, they can be an encouragement to donors.
When asked to explain what happens with donated blood, Isabelle remarked, “They send it to the hospital, and give it to kids who need it.” And though the process is a bit more complex than what she described, Isabelle definitely understands and is grateful for the life-saving gift of blood this holiday season.
Blood Delivery Gets Personal
Something didn’t seem right to David Ash, Blood Products Services courier for Oklahoma Blood Institute. Feeling very ill with an elevated blood pressure, he went home from work on March 3. The next morning, his doctor advised him to go to the Oklahoma Heart Hospital - one of the facilities where David routinely delivers blood. Once there, he learned he was having a heart attack.
Physicians quickly performed an angioplasty to see if stents or a balloon could help, only to find that virtually no blood was flowing through David’s heart. A balloon was inserted and inflated to open the coronary artery and keep him alive until he could have surgery.
On March 6, while waiting for heart bypass surgery, David “coded”. After being revived, he underwent quintuple (x5) bypass surgery. During the surgery, David was given eight units of red cells plus plasma and platelets. David may have delivered the blood that saved his own life. While in surgery, he again coded and needed to be resuscitated. He became affectionately known as ‘the walking dead man’ among his physicians.
After the surgery, David’s life was still in danger. Not only did he suffer from infection in his incision site, but the surgery had not completely corrected his underlying heart arrhythmia. Cardiac conversion was performed and then, a few months later, a pacemaker was implanted.
Today, David is alive and well. He and his wife, Sharon, administrative assistant, Donor Recruitment, understand the importance of their work more than most.
“Thanks to OBI’s work, prayers from across the country and support from our OBI family, David is back to work and doing well,” said Sharon. “We can never fully express our gratitude for the staff and donors.”
Hunter Denton Story
Mattilynn & Jeremy Hurley Story
A Sooner Thank You
Dear Blood Institute,
During your recent blood drive with the University of Oklahoma, I was honored to donate for the first time. This was a very special moment for me, and I’d like to share why.
Nearing the end of her pregnancy, my mom began to have complications. I was born six weeks prematurely, weighing 5 pounds, 3 ounces. After immediately being placed in the intensive care unit, the doctors informed my parents that my mom had suffered an infection in her placenta, and that infection was passed on to me. I had a 30 percent change of living.
My parents were devastated. If I was to have a chance at survival, a blood transfusion would be required because I did not have enough white blood cells to fight off the infection.
During this time, the medical staff was trying to find a donor with my blood type. They found a match - a man in Rochester, NY, three hours northwest of Binghamton, NY, where I was born. This man was a regular donor, and he agreed to donate immediately.
The blood arrived just in time. Three days later, things were looking up. My chance of living was increased to 50 percent, and, at that time, my parents and family knew I was a fighter. I fought off the infection, and I truly believe the kindness of the blood donor from Rochester, NY, saved my life.
Thank you for the work you do and for allowing me to be a part of it.
University of Oklahoma Athletic Department
17 Years Ago…
As Railee Creech joined thousands of other students heading off to college for the first time this fall, her family couldn’t help but reflect on the miracle of blood donation that allowed them to enjoy this season of life. Both Railee and her mother Holly faced near tragedy in 1995.
Holly, who had already lost babies prematurely, became critically ill months before Railee’s due date. Doctors decided to deliver Railee and told Holly and her husband Robert that there was less than a five percent chance of the baby’s survival. Railee was born weighing only one pound.
Meanwhile, Holly lay in the Intensive Care Unit, fighting for her life. Due to a critical blood disorder, known as thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), she required blood. With the help of innovative therapeutic blood treatments that had just become available through the Blood Institute, and more than 300 donors, Holly survived.
In the months that followed, Railee had delicate heart surgery and struggled to grow. “She was the smallest baby the hospital had ever cared for, and she, too, received blood donations,” said Robert. Though neither mom nor baby were expected to live, both are alive and well today thanks to faithful donors.
Railee graduated from Norman High School in May, and is now a freshman at the University of Central Oklahoma.
Because computerized donor records didn’t exist at the time of Railee’s birth, it is impossible to individually thank the donors whose blood saved Holly and Railee. But at each milestone in Railee’s life, her parents reflect on those who provided the opportunity for their miracle. That year was one the Creech family will never forget. And having endured it, they have dearly treasured the subsequent 17.
Pictured above - Robert, Railee, Ashlee and Holly Creech.
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Growing with Gratitude
As each year passes, MaKayla Farrimond lives life to the fullest knowing that her need for blood is coming again. Niece of Crystal Farrimond, executive director, Tulsa, MaKayla is a well-known face in our Tulsa donor center. Not only does she volunteer regularly at blood drives and other events, she also serves as a reminder to staff of the impact of our daily efforts.
At 4 months of age, MaKayla was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition. She received blood during two open heart surgeries. Her first heart valve replacement was performed at St. Francis Children’s Hospital in Tulsa when she was only 7 months old. Ten years later, she had outgrown that valve, requiring another surgery and another unit of blood from OBI donors.
“Every six months, MaKayla has an echocardiogram to evaluate her heart,” said Crystal. “When the pumping of her heart decreases, it will be time for a new valve and again, blood will be needed from our donors.”
At 14 years old, MaKayla isn’t missing a beat. A freshman at Muskogee High School, she enjoys swimming, playing Wii and Facebooking with friends.
“All the people that get the blood are really lucky,” said MaKayla. “I think about how many people’s lives are changed just by one little stick.”
MaKayla is an example of someone who is alive thanks to blood donors!
Pictured above, Crystal Farrimond, Executive Director, Tulsa; and her niece MaKayla pose with Betty Thompson, Miss Oklahoma/Miss America 2012 first runner up. MaKayla thanked Betty for supporting blood donation with OBI.
Our Ultimate “Thanks-giving”
My name is Cindi Draper. I became a blood donor when I was 17; I became an even greater advocate of OBI and blood donation when I began working as a recruiter. My husband Jason and I didn’t realize, however, what a huge impact it would eventually have on our personal lives!
In 2007, our second child, Lilli Jo, was born with TEF (tracheoesophageal fistula), a birth defect in which the trachea is connected to the esophagus. This developmental abnormality occurs in about one of every 3,000 births. The surgery to repair this damage required 5 units of blood.
In 2011, our third daughter, Bethany, was born with a congenital heart defect; the two major vessels (aorta and pulmonary) were transposed. We were immediately told that she would have to undergo open heart surgery. Bethany required more than 30 units of blood during surgery!
We felt both secure and thankful during these surgeries: we knew that both of our daughters would be getting the safest blood in the nation and we knew, because Oklahoma blood donors are dedicated and loyal, there would be an ample blood supply to assist in the operations that would save their lives. Thank you, blood donors and OBI, for providing this life-saving product!
OBI wishes to thank Cindi for using “Share Your Story” to tell us her story.
A Mission to Live By
As a blood program consultant for Oklahoma Blood Institute, Julie Gimmel spends her days planning and organizing blood drives. Julie is enthusiastic and passionate about the work she’s done in the past eight years, because she knows first hand the value of blood donation.
In 1998, Julie discovered what she believed to be a very small blemish on her breast. When the lump didn’t go away, she was encouraged by a friend to have it checked.
“I was convinced it was nothing, because, at that time, no one in our family had been diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Julie. “I wasn’t aware that one in eight women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.”
A biopsy just a few weeks later revealed that Julie did have breast cancer. She underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.
“The treatment after the surgery took a lot out of me and knocked my red blood cell count down,” said Julie. “That is when I was given two units of red blood cells.”
“It was odd laying there and seeing a blood bag. I was used to seeing it when I donated. Now, it was holding blood going in me to make me feel better.”
Julie’s breast cancer treatment was successful, but her battle with cancer was far from over. Just three years later, she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer is referred to as a silent killer, because there are usually no painful symptoms. Julie suffered from pain for about seven months because the tumor was near a nerve. Her doctor thought it was an internal hemorrhoid. Finally, after her persistence, she had a colonoscopy. In 2001, she was told she again had cancer.
After extensive treatments of chemotherapy and radiation, Julie was again victorious over cancer, and has been cancer free since 2001.
“I feel very fortunate that both cancers were diagnosed early, and treatments were successful,” said Julie. “I tried to keep a positive attitude and believed that I was going to survive. I wanted to keep going for my daughter, Rachel.”
Julie loves working at OBI and is inspired by the mission of encouraging others to save lives of people they may never meet.
“Until you visit with recipients, or are a recipient, it’s easy to forget the true impact,” said Julie. “Because of the life-saving gift I’ve been given, I will never take our mission lightly.”
The following story was written and submitted by Bob Epps, Angel Flight pilot. It’s saved here to commemorate the terrorist attacks on our country on September 11, 2001, and reflect on the role local blood donors were able to play in help from the Heartland during that tragedy.
If was Wednesday, September 12, 2001, the day after the terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) and Pentagon. Bill Boulton, my pilot, called and advised that we had an Angel Flight later that day to fly blood from Oklahoma Blood Institute in Oklahoma City to Louisville, KY. An airplane from New York, a Piper Navajo, N700C, was to meet us in Louisville, take our cargo aboard and fly it to New York City, where the blood would be used to treat those injured from the attack on the WTC.
When I arrived at Wiley Post Airport, Bill was there waiting for the blood to arrive. We learned that other Angel Flight pilots, had made a similar flight the previous evening also, transporting blood for the victims of the attack. Oklahoma Blood Institute delivered the blood at 4 p.m. The blood, a 520 pound load in perhaps a dozen boxes, was loaded aboard N107MM, Bill’s A-26 Bonanza. Two local television stations were present and recorded for their evening news.
The flight plan had to be filed with the Fort Worth Air Traffic Control Center since all private and commercial flights had been suspended following the terrorist attacks the previous day. Bill advised that Center required additional pilot information and said we were to use Life Guard as a call sign prefix for this flight.
At 5 p.m., we departed in absolute silence, other than Air Traffic Control (ATC) contacts. We were on our way as a Life Guard flight. The uneventful, mostly silent flight ended three hours and thirty-seven minutes later. During the course of the flight Bill and I were amazed at the noticeably silent radio chatter. ATC was remarkably silent with only occasional acknowledgements and altimeter settings from Center to Center. Our attention was grabbed by broadcasts from Centers whose remarks ordered all air traffic with the exception of Life Guard, authorized emergency and law enforcement flights to land at the nearest facility or risk being scrambled by USAF fighter aircraft. We commented about this being a history-making flight for us. Neither of us could recall a time when all civil aircraft operations had been suspended in the United States.
As we were preparing to land, we heard N700C talking with the tower, so we knew there would be no delay in getting the blood where it was needed. We then learned this plane was also flying blood from New York for further processing in Oklahoma City. We did not have room for their full load, and Bill hurriedly made arrangements for another plane to come to Louisville. The entire load of blood from N700C was off loaded and temporarily stored in a conference room where the air conditioning unit was lowered considerably to keep the blood cool.
We were provided ground transportation for Bill and me to a Holiday Inn in Louisville. We spent the night there and planned an early departure from SDF the following morning.
At 7 a.m. the next morning with our cargo of some 500 pounds of blood and blood kits on board, we departed for Oklahoma City. Radio silence on the trip back was again noticeable. About 9:40 a.m. an ATC controller at Evansville (EVV), IN advised us his life of leisure would soon end with the return of aircraft to the skies and he would, no doubt, earn his pay for the day. But just a few minutes later, the same controller advised us that opening of the airways had been delayed. Again, radio silence prevailed with only occasional ATC contact as needed.
At 10:37 a.m., we arrived back in Oklahoma City. We were able to park in a hangar out of the full rays of the September sun. Bill called Oklahoma Blood Institute who dispatched a truck for our load. Our mission was finished.